We are faced daily with an overwhelming number of choices, particularly when it comes to spending. A simple choice like buying shampoo can turn into a ten-minute decision if we consider overall price, bottle size, brand reputation, specific variety (for oily hair, for straight hair, for red hair, for thin hair), per-unit price, coupons, and sales. The local Wal-Mart offers more than seventy different types of shampoo, and their selection isn’t a particularly large one.
These choices don’t even account for decisions we make before entering the store — Do I really need shampoo right now? Can I make it stretch by adding water, using less, or washing my hair less often? Should I wait until there’s more on my list before I go to the store? Which store should I visit? Should I shop online for it? Should I wait for it to go on sale?
You might not even be aware you’re making so many decisions, but our culture offers far more choices than it did a few decades ago, and more choices mean more decisions. For anyone wanting to save money, more choices can also mean more hazards if we don’t choose well. Too many choices to buy a nice meal out here and a trendy new picture frame there can limit our choices later (Without money saved, you won’t ever get to choose between the cabin in the mountains and the house at the beach — or an RV — when it’s time to buy that vacation home you always wanted).
Sound finances are all about making good decisions; improving your decision-making skills will improve your money management skills. Several formal methods exist for making decisions. A formal decision-making technique may be useful for big purchases, and seeing the decision-making process on paper can even help you improve the way you make decisions when faced with everyday choices. However, none of us has time to perform a formal cost analysis or draw a decision tree for every one of those thousands of decisions we make each month. So how else can we improve our decision-making skills?
For one, we have to set priorities. Setting priorities is a weakness for me, not so much in spending but in time. I want to have more time to write, more time to read, more time to do crafts, more time to travel, more time to spend with my family, more time to exercise, more time to see friends, more time to volunteer, more time to